A Synopsis of the Film
Slowly creeping through the canopy of the rain forest, Indiana Jones enters the sacred temple with his trusty guide. On second glance it appears the guide is covered with spiders. Hey kids, pay attention! That’s Alfred Molina, who over twenty years down the line will don 4 metal tentacles (Doc-Oc) and battle the likes of one superhero webslinger…can anyone say, “foreshadowing”? The careful maneuvering and quick thinking skills of Dr. Jones allows him to narrowly escape with his life, but it is all for not, as the precious relic is stripped away from him by his archaeologist competitor, Belloq.
Indy’s next mission is given to him by the US government. Put simply, he is commissioned to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. The Ark of the Covenant (as many of you might know) is the sacred vessel that was used to contain and transport, among other things, the Ten Commandments, given to Moses by God at Mt. Sinai. It was a powerful icon, adorned with gold and treated with the utmost reverence, carried in long processions of worship and praise, and sent before the army as they marched into battles. The Ark is described in detail in the books of Exodus and Numbers.
After a short stop in Nepal, Indiana re-teams with an old flame, Marion, and then heads to Egypt. Jones is the first to find the Ark, but once again Belloq relieves him of it. Thrilling car chases through the countryside of Egypt result in Indy’s retrieval of the Ark, but as one might expect this is short lived as the Nazis track him down and take it once again. By way of submarine, the Nazis take the ark and the captured Jones to a secluded island in the Mediterranean. They want to test the ark’s power before handing it over to Hitler. Not to spoil the ending, we’ll just say that God makes His presence known by the end.
Hidden Themes & Subplots
Stubbornness of Man:
1 Cor. 2:9, Jn. 20:29, Prov. 3:5-6
-Indiana Jones was never one for believing in the supernatural, let alone religion. He always thought scientifically. If something was tangible, or if something could be proven through formulas or proofs, then he believed. He hates counting on anyone else and, as a result, the only faith he possesses is in himself and his own ability. While that seemed to work in the past, by the end of the film it becomes painfully clear to Indy that there are times when one must close his eyes and trust in God, even if he doesn’t totally understand.
Greed as a Disease:
Job 20:20, Ps. 10:3, Prov. 19:22, Mk. 7:21-23
Jones never wanted to possess the Ark for any personal gain. He always believed and defended the premise that the things he uncovered belonged in a museum. His partner Marion, however, was always attempting to make her life a little bit easier, whether through gambling or scamming those around her. She does not seek reason, but rather the benefits of any situation.
Belloq is right when he says that, “there is nothing that Jones can possess which he cannot take away”. It’s true he is a great archaeologist, but in an effort to remain “on top”, nothing stands in his way, even if that means that he must steal. It is fitting that he works for the Nazis, a group bent on total world domination and control over all human life.
Religious Imagery & Symbolism
Jos. 3:13, Gen. 1:26-27, Jos. 6:9-13
Near the end of the film on the isolated island the Nazis process in a large group through the canyons with the Ark at the forefront. This can be seen as a direct parallel to what the Jews did thousands of years earlier as they eventually marched forward, battling for and conquering the land of Canaan. The only difference is that while the Israelites were processing for the glory of God, the Nazis were acting as gods, themselves.
Burning of the Crate (Swastika):
Mk. 7:21, Jer. 9:2, Rom. 5:12, Ex. 32:22
On the ship in which the Ark is being kept in a Nazi crate, the swastika dissolves for (seemingly) no reason. Historically, the swastika was used as a Christian symbol but the Nazis altered it, using it in their propoganda campaign to overtake humanity. The swastika symbol burning off of the box reminds the viewer that God cannot be controlled or crafted in man’s image.
The Pharaoh’s Return:
Ex. 13:14, Deut. 6:12, Heb. 9:4, Mt. 2:13-15
At one point Sallah remarks about the parallel between the Nazis in Egypt and the days of the Pharaohs…how they had returned. In the desert scenes there is an obvious parallel between the Nazis standing around with their weapons while the Egyptians work to dig up ruins and the slave-drivers from ancient Egypt. One could also view Indy as Moses as he runs around the camps dressed in traditional garments and carrying a staff (symbol of God’s power) which (ironically enough) is the puzzle piece that leads him to the Ark’s real location.
Jer. 7:22, 2 Chron. 7:1, Lev. 1:10, Gen. 22:3, 1 Sam. 7:9-10, 2 Chron. 29:29
The Holocaust in Old Testament tradition involved the slaughtering and sacrifice of cattle and other animals to God. On the island, Indy and Marion are helplessly tied to a post like animals, while the fire of God moves through the group of Nazis causing their demise. In the end we again have the reciprocal, with the Nazis being sacrificed for the good of man and the cattle, blameless in the sight of God, being allowed to live. The obvious and direct allusion between the Old Testament holocausts and the holocaust that the Nazis were responsible for during World War II, cannot be overlooked or understated, either.
Paschal Mystery (places we see it exemplified within the film)
- Indy walks a very fine line between his personality and that of Belloq. He does have good intentions but, at times, allows his ego to get the better of him, allowing him to exude a very cocky and overly confident attitude. He never wants anyone around him to suspect that something may be out of his control. By dying to himself and his pride, Dr. Jones is able to act humbly and finally trust in the power of God to aid him in his darkest hour, as he is tied to a post.
- Belloq has the potential to be a great man, but he never fully realizes what he is doing. Aside from his competitive quarrels with Dr. Jones, Belloq seems totally ignorant of the fact that he is a pawn of the Nazis. By coming to realize the gifts that God has bestowed upon him, he may eventually become the great individual that he longs to be, but only if his heart is in the right place.
- Everyone at some point in their lives holds a grudge and Marion is no exception. Her inability to trust anyone creates superficial relationships with the people in her life, and those people are scarce. She can barely cope with having Indiana Jones in her life again and has trouble deciding whether she loves him or still hates him. She is challenged to die to her indecisiveness and selfishness and take a stand, for once. Until she puts her own fears aside none of her relationships will have any sort of depth or honesty.
(Now name three other instances in which you find the Paschal Mystery in the context of film.)
Character Overview: Indiana Jones
An incredibly intelligent man who is unfamiliar with the word “quit”. He leads a double life as both a professor of archaeology and an adventurer. In this film as well as the 2 sequels which follow, it is apparent Indy will always have trouble fully letting go or trusting anyone beside himself, whether it be his father on earth or his Father in Heaven. Faith has never come easy to him, but as all humans do, he learns from his experiences as amazing and rare as they might be.
His love for the people in his life is evident once you get past the gruff exterior and wisecracks. At times he may carelessly risk his life swinging from whips or fighting the Nazis, but ultimately it is for the good of the many as opposed to the advancement of self.
Character Overview: Marion
Her juvenile relationship with Indiana Jones clouded her better judgment and sent her into years of distrust and hate. As the owner of a small tavern in Nepal she is slowly saving up to make her way back to the US. Ultimately what she really wants is a better life. She tries to come across as strong-willed and independent, but is easily overwhelmed by Indiana Jones’ charms, allowing her fall right back into the same situation she was in 10 years earlier.
She constantly appears tries to prove she is his equal to all intellectually and physically. First and foremost it seems that she herself is the one that needs to be convinced of this. Her overzealous attitude masks her fear of uncertainty of the future and her place within it.
Character Overview: Sallah
Labeled “the best digger in Egypt”, Sallah is a charismatic entrepreneur and father. He has by no means leads an extravagant life and remains very humble with all that God has blessed him with amidst the country’s small economic base. His concern and love for his friend, Indiana, is evident as he is quick to offer his services to help in any way possible. As a servant to others, Sallah truly is a servant of Christ.
-humble and loyal
This scene (chapter on the DVD) doesn’t sum up the entire movie, but is emblematic of the characters, storyline or theme inherent within. Watch the scene carefully, and discus how it summarizes several of the major themes of the film.
- Are you a real man or woman of God? Do you take action and face adversity when you are challenged about your faith life? Do you bullwhip those trying to bring you down, or do you fight them with love?
- How do you actively uphold man’s covenant with God? In what ways could you live up to the Commandments more fully? What other areas need some work?
- Is it always easy to be a servant? Are there any negative aspects to the character of Sallah? Is humility dangerous? How is it possible for you to be more humble in your own life?
- Is there someone in your life right now that needs forgiveness? Are you holding any grudges that just seem plain silly at this point?
- Think about all the different types of relationships in your life: work, family, friends, etc. How deep do they go? Are they merely surface and superficial? How much time have you taken to get to know the people in your life? How well do you know them?
With everything that you have achieved in your life, any of your accomplishments, have you thanked God? Do you offer up the gifts that He has instilled in you?
Prov. 22:4, Sir. 10:27, Zeph. 2:3, Col. 3:12, James 3:13
So it’s highly unlikely the majority of us are going to have fantastic adventures of Biblical proportions any time soon. Some of us may lead very simple and humble lives, which are vital. Day to day we need to be reminded that no matter what we are doing big or small, He is with us and wants to be included. No matter what is happening, be it good or bad, offer it up to God. He is there in the bad times as well as the good, so let’s not forget Him when things go wrong. A real hero is not just someone who can call to God in the darkest of times, but someone he calls out in praise in the best of times as well.
Call to Action
Ps. 89:20, Isa. 9:5, Ps. 86:11, 3 Jn. 1:3, Pr. 2:1-10
The time has come to take a stand as young, Catholic men and women against the forces of evil in this world. We can be heroes, not like those on the stage and screen, but real heroes. Too many people today take passive stances on different topics that they may not necessarily agree with, but they remain silent, not wanting to cause any sort of disturbances. The indifference of good men and women is also a problem. It is time to “seek” the treasures of truth that the faith have to offer, searching for clarity and answers to things you might not fully understand. It is time to defend your opinion and stances as members of the Catholic Church and as followers of God, sharing the truth with all you come into contact with each day.